Traditional sports sidelined in favour of alternatives

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A new survey of PE lessons  by independent researchers, TNS-BMRB, has found that schools are overlooking traditional team games in favour of cheerleading, yoga and circus skills as sport.

Netball, hockey and rugby union are losing their appeal as schools tempt pupils with alternatives such as juggling, boxing, trampolining, skateboarding and angling.

Nearly four in ten schools - 37 per cent - now offer cheerleading as a sport, it emerged, up from 32 per cent in 2008/09.

Fewer than four in ten youngsters regularly play competitive sport, with four million missing out, the poll of all schools in England showed.

Seventy-eight per cent of youngsters played in some internal school leagues and fixtures. But only 39 per cent did so ' regularly' - three times or more a year at primary school and 12 times or more at secondary.

Just 49 per cent had some experience of inter-school competition and only 21 per cent did so regularly.
Meanwhile some 22 per cent of schools are laying on yoga classes, with the same proportion providing trampolining lessons, and 18 per cent offer circus skills.

Football, offered by 98 per cent of schools, remains the most popular sport, followed by dance, offered by 96 per cent, and cricket by 89 per cent.

Netball is played at 79 per cent of schools, and 66 per cent offer rugby union - down from a high of 74 per cent in 2005/06. Rugby league was offered by 35 per cent.

Participation in school sport has risen steadily since monitoring began seven years ago.

Other sports which have gained popularity include skateboarding, boxing, mountaineering and martial arts, while cycling enjoyed a particularly sharp rise.

But 21 per cent - some 1.4 million youngsters - still do not receive the recommended minimum of two hours of PE lessons a week. A recent report from watchdog Ofsted warned that some schools have no choice but to offer alternative sports because they lack the facilities for competitive games.

Earlier this year Education Secretary Michael Gove revealed plans to revive competitive sport in schools with an Olympics- style national school sport championship in 2012.

Children's Minister Tim Loughton said: "It's great to see more pupils taking part in school sports.

"However, young people's involvement in competitive sport remains disappointingly low. We aim to spark a competitive school sport revolution by giving them the chance to compete at the Olympic-style competitions in 2012."

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